Marsha Lindsay: Give a Lot and Get Back Even More

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With a big bang triggered by technology, the universe we marketers used to command has exploded. Media fragmentation, search engines, personalized media and media software have decisively put control in the hands of the consumer.

What (if anything) can marketers do to affect today's emboldened and empowered consumers? So dramatically different are the methods now needed to generate results, it's as if we're living in an alternate universe. The new best practices feel like the opposite of the old. The resulting paradox is this: To gain any control over the one thing we most want to command-profits-we must first give even more control to the consumer.

Marketers nervous about the degree to which they must give up more control in order to profit will find this a reliable roadmap: Operationalize not around profitable products, but around profitable customer segments. Organize around their needs and wants and how to thrill them.

Be obsessive in enabling these valued segments to customize, personalize and co-create your product, usage and shopping experience. This will fuel their passion for your brand.

Nurture their fanaticism; make it your mission. Real fanaticism has little to do with "fan-like" appearance and everything to do with filling the needs and desires that subconsciously drive profitable customers.

Traditional "customer-satisfaction" measurements are now known not to correlate with real loyalty or profitability. The one metric with proven correlations is, "Would you recommend this brand to others?" Aspire to this as a singular measure of success.

Cultivate the cohesive bonds between customers proven to keep them loyal, despite competitive threats or your brand's occasional disappointing performance. Not just any old community concept will do this. Cohesion today is driven not by functionality, features or usage, but by a shared attraction to the emotional meaning of your brand.

Discover the subconscious meaning that drives your most profitable customers. Is it a dream about what life could be? An admirable universal and enduring purpose? The emotional/aspirational job your brand performs that nothing else can?

Magnify this meaning with a big idea. In the new universe, a big idea is one that anchors and unifies what your brand stands for regardless of product, media, time and technological change.

Repeatedly and "stickily" engage valued customer segments where, when and in ways they want.

Make your brand one with the culture, relevant to the cultural angst or with customers' preferred means of engagement.

Affect intent and connect with the culture by telling great stories that speak to the subconscious drivers of your valued customers.

Create a Mecca where your most valued customers can combine your brand's story with the story of their own life. This will create even deeper bonds with other valuable customers.

Given the holistic requirements of what it takes to create brand loyalty today, get rid of the silo mentality within your organization and agencies. Embrace collaboration.

Marketers uneasy that customers are already commandeering their brand, product and communications will find that indulging them actually earns the marketer power over the one thing they most desire: profitability. Obsessively serving the needs of profitable customer segments commands their respect, loyalty and brand passion. It prompts them to proselytize on a brand's behalf with people similar to themselves (i.e., profitable)-all the while lowering marketing costs, furthering profitability even more.

And while it may sound decidedly untechnological, the summary of how to market in this new technologically based universe is this: Practice the Golden Rule. That's because sincere customer centricity isn't just proven to activate fanatical loyalty among people. It's also proven to create fanatical loyalty between people and brands, people and their jobs.

The other big paradox of the new universe: Giving up more control gains us greater job satisfaction, too. That's because "doing unto others" is the only objective ever found to reliably activate intelligence and inspire creativity.
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